• Linda,
    Thanks for the reminder why tracking your food daily is so important. I’ve gotten slack with that lately and the scale reflects it. Back to the “if you bite it you write it” rule!

    From Lisette Volz
    March 6, 2013

Calories Count

True or False: If you eat healthy foods and exercise every day, you will lose weight.

This is a trick question, because it can be either true or false. When we eliminate unwise foods and concentrate on nutrition, our health is bound to improve. But sometimes portion sizes and preparation methods can keep us stuck at the same place on the scale.

When coaching clients come to me in a state of frustration because they are “doing everything right but not losing weight,” my first question is, “Have you added up your calories?” Often the answer is no. When these same clients take a hard look at the numbers, they are usually surprised to learn that they are a) taking in just enough to maintain their current weight or b) taking in more than they need, in which case they are actually gaining weight. The reality is, to lose one pound per week, we must create a 3,500-calorie deficit—in other words, consume 500 calories less per day than our body needs to maintain its current weight.

Whether you are Jethro Bodine or Albert Einstein, my bet is that you aren’t a good estimator when it comes to calories in and out. It’s just too easy to rationalize away a few hundred extras by overestimating calories burned and underestimating intake. But no matter how you justify them in your head, your body’s internal calculator will not be fooled. So what’s the solution?

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers confirmed that keeping a detailed account of what you eat and drink is a powerful weight-loss tool. The six-month study involving 1,685 middle-aged men and women found that those who kept such a diary lost about twice as much weight as those who did not.

Today, a number of Web-based weight-loss applications such as Lose It, Spark People, My Fitness Pal and others can be integrated with your computer and all of your smart devices. These programs allow you to log food intake and exercise, set and track goals, interact with others who share similar goals, and more. This is a fabulous way to begin your journey towards a healthier lifestyle, and I highly recommend it. Even if you are not a techie, these programs are easy enough to use and make calorie counting convenient. As an added bonus, many of them are free!

If the thought of keeping an electronic journal is unattractive or overwhelming, I encourage you to find a way to be accountable that suits your lifestyle—use a pocketsize notebook, diary, sticky pad, calendar, or voice recorder. Over time, you will notice behavior patterns and habits that you may want to adjust.

This doesn’t mean that you have to write down everything you eat forever. The long-term objective is to gain enough awareness and knowledge to make healthy choices more intuitively. By doing the math now, you will gain confidence in your ability to make daily decisions that support your health goals.

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